Gas Guzzler Back In a Different Shape
based on Nedra Pickely's article
Wednesday, December 20, 2000, B4]
America's love affair with gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and pickups is keeping national fuel economy at a 20-year low, the government says. "Consumers want cars that have certain performance features, " said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman of the Alliance
of Automobile Manufactures that lobbies on behalf of 13 automakers. "We sell cars that get
40 miles per gallon, but fewer than 2 percent of consumers buy them."
Here's our first question:
When was the last time you saw a TV ad emphasizing a car's fuel efficiency?
When was the last time you saw an TV ad for a sport utility
Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, says automakers
spend much of their huge advertising budgets pushing lower-mileage SUVs because they are
so profitable. "They have found that the American public will buy a large pile of steel
with plush seats and cup holders, despite the fact that they will guzzle gas, pollute
the air and roll over and kill people," he said.
The image below, recently released from the EPA, shows fuel efficiency, i.e., the
average miles per gallon, for all 2000 model passenger vehicles is at a 20-year low. Light
trucks, including the immensely popular SUVs, now make up about half of all sales and get
about eight miles per gallon less than cars.
Not only are SUVs, and other fuel inefficient vehicles, disastrous for the environment, they jeopardize our national security. We have become increasingly dependent
upon foreign oil. As the cost to purchase oil has risen sharply, we see the immediate
and negative impact to our economy. Although we have boasted one of the nation's strongest
economies over the past 4-5 years, we could be quickly crippled if the oil producing (OPEC)
countries wanted to tighten their grip.
In addition, few Americans have advanced education in economics. The Census Bureau just
released latest government figures on the U.S. trade balance. For October, the sum of our
exports minus our imports resulted in a negative balance. We refer to this as a "trade
deficit." For October 2000, the deficit was the second-highest on record. Imbalances with
China and Japan both hit all-time highs, reflecting imports of autos and Christmas toys. Most
importantly, America's foreign oil bill also rose to the HIGHEST LEVEL EVER.
In the illustration below, the smaller table in the upper right shows the annual U.S. Trade Deficit. We have consistently worsened our position through the 90s. The larger table in the
lower right shows the monthly fluctuations. While we saw a slight improvement in the last reported
month, October, the imbalance equals a negative $33.2 billion.
What does this mean? It means we are selling our country -- dollar-by-dollar, piece-by-piece.
Each month, a little more of the ole U.S. of A becomes the property of foreign investors. The
immediate effect is that as there are greater numbers of U.S. dollars on the international market,
the dollar loses its relative value. This causes Americans to pay higher prices for products
produced outside the country. As a result, oil and gas prices will continue to soar. This, in turn,
will further increase our trade deficit, and that will cause oil and gas prices to continue to
increase even further. We end up in a vicious cycle.
Increasing prices for heating
oil and natural gas, fuel for our gas-guzzling vehicles, cause many Americans to cut back on
other, non-essential purchases. This may lead to a recession -- resulting in the loss of
employment for many Americans. As the national employment is unusually high, this does not present
an immediate threat to our stability. On the other hand, we could experience a mighty
surge in inflation. This worries many national leaders. This is one reason Federal Reserve
Chairman, Alan Greenspan, did not decrease the prime lending interest rate. He is signaling
he is highly concerned about the possibility of inflationary price increases.
This first thing we ALL must do is cut back on our dependency on foreign oil. If you were stupid enough to purchase a SUV, consider selling it immediately -- before the rush. Similar
to the situation in the 70s, we learned a hard lesson about being both stupid and greedy. If you
can't seem to part with that "boat," try to carpool, take a bus, or in other ways, reduce your use.
Second, try to use less oil, natural gas and electricity. Conserve all our natural resources by being more efficient when heating your home. Try to use less hot water. Cook efficiently. Turn off all lights, power devices, when not in use. Eliminate things that are unnecessary and focus on practicing safe driving, carpooling and other auto essentials.
Fight for a strong, independent America. Stop allowing this nation to be sold to the highest bidder!